Poll and Questions: HDR Images

I have recently began a process of reviewing the Photomatix HDR software.  Having never previously used any dedicated HDR software, I was very eager to see the results that Photomatix produced.

After using it a little, I very impressed at how automatically it creates an HDR image out of multiple exposures (although there is still an art to getting the most out of it).  You can even export images directly from Lightroom 2 to Photomatix and then automatically re-import them into your Lightroom library.  Pretty cool stuff.

Armed with a Canon 5D Mark II, 17-40mm f/4L lens and some inspiration from Michael James’ HDR Real Estate Photography, I set out to find an appropriate indoor setting to give Photomatix a little test drive.

In the set-up below, I shot 3 images at -2EV, 0EV and +2EV from a tripod. The scene was lit by the two lamps you see and a ceiling fixture only.  I then combined them in Photomatix via the LR plugin to create an HDR image.  I was pleased with the initial results.  I thought I had a rather realistic-looking HDR image.

Then, I started thinking…  How much can I get out of a single Canon 5D Mark II Raw file by processing in LR alone?

So, I took one of the exposures (I’m not saying which one) and pushed it as far as I could in LR to try to get as close as I could to the Photomatix HDR image.

The results?  I was pretty impressed.

One of the following images was processed in LR 2.5 from a single exposure.  One was processed from 3 images using Photomatix.

This wasn’t meant to be a scientific test and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still learning my way around Photomatix.  Additionally, some of you LR wizards out there can probably push the software even further. Just some nice weekend fun time with a camera that I wanted to share with all of you.

Can you tell you tell which is which? Insert your answer in the poll at the bottom and/or leave comment with your thoughts.

(I stripped all of the metadata in case you are thinking about taking a peek and I flipped a coin to decide which one to insert first)

Got something to say about these images? How do you process HDR images? What’s your take on HDR imagery as a genre?

Add your further thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE:  You can find the poll results here, along with some commentary on the exposures.  Don’t cheat though.  Vote first, then check out the results to see if you got it right.



  1. Steve says

    I’m guessing the 1st one is the HDR shot. Looks to me that it exposes a little more thru the back french doors to see the outside railing. But I could be wrong. Either way both look great if your goal was covering the indoor room. Where I have seen HDR excel is in places where say you have a large window looking outside. Getting the indoor lit to see and keeping the outside scene looking good. Maybe not as easy in LR, but again, I could just need to work harder in LR.

  2. kim says

    im saying the 2nd one is HDR – i know the carpet looks overX. however, the top one looks like the carpet is underX.

    And some other things, I still think that 2nd one is HDR.

    (now that I opened my mouf’, im probably wrong) and I love HDR.

    Love it.

  3. Martin says

    For me the lamp shade on the left back looks more blown out in the 1st image than in the 2nd image, the same applies even more for the reflection of presumably a TV screen on the left glass door (just above the armchair) – therefore the 2nd image appears to be a true HDR and the 1st a simulated HDR (or however you want to call it).

    In both cases a good technique to get more out of an image.